The Lazy Berkshire Gardener: Week of April 4, 2024

The Lazy Berkshire Gardener: Week of April 4, 2024


One of two beautiful crocuses has appeared along a rock in the Lazy Gardener’s garden. More will be better.

I found it! I admit that I feel embarrassed when others share photos showing off snowdrops and crocuses blooming in their gardens. I thought I missed it! no! I found the crocuses I planted, and they flowered well, thank you. I still plan to buy more in October so I can have a bigger show next year.

Although last weekend didn’t bring a deluge of rain, it was cold and windy at my house. I chose to do some focused weeding because 1) the beds needed it, 2) the beds were in the sun, and 3) the house was blocking the wind. Have you accomplished everything? No, I didn’t, but I exhausted myself and still accomplished something.

Perennial grasses are like icebergs: deceptively small in spring with not much above the surface but plenty of roots below. Dig it all.

I will need to return – later this spring and summer too – to the asparagus row and front foundation border where I will be pulling out the crabgrass and ground ivy that are regularly invading. But unlike constantly pushing a rock up a hill, weeding becomes easier. The more often weeds attack, the easier the task is to remove them. The soil becomes looser and weeds weaker.

Ground ivy and clumps of crabgrass have moved into the asparagus bed (left). Asparagus can handle poor soil and competing weeds (it grows on roadsides, after all), but the lazy gardener still wants to eat as much as possible, so annual weeding helps reduce competition.

I pulled a clump of sorrel (it looks like clover and tastes like lemon) from among last year’s asparagus scraps. On the surface, the sorrel looked weak, but I dug underneath with my new digging knife/trowel and removed a huge mass of roots. Perennial weeds continue to grow below the soil surface even while the tops are removed. I like to get perennial grasses early in the season when moist soil releases roots more easily.

Annual weeds will sprout but fail to catch on if you routinely attack them with a hoe, garden fork, or hoe. This all sounds like more work, but doing it more often also makes it easier.

Are you excited to get rid of weeds yet? no? Try to prevent these weeds from germinating in the first place by using corn gluten weed preventatives. Organic corn gluten spread on grass or garden beds will prevent any seeds from sprouting; This is any seed, such as grass seeds or wildflower seeds. However, it will not kill perennial weeds that have roots deep in the soil. In fact, corn gluten adds nitrogen to the soil and may help perennial grasses grow stronger.

Therefore, use corn gluten carefully. Spread it while the forsythia is flowering – indicating that soil temperatures are right for weed seeds to grow. After the forsythia blooms, it will be too late to prevent weed seeds from emerging.

I turned some winter rye, a green manure, over the weekend. Next week will see snowfall again in the forecast – an expected springtime April Fools’ Day – which will settle into the transformed soil helping fresh organic matter decompose. I’ve only turned over the parts I plan to plant soon with peas, lettuce, arugula and spinach. I will wait two weeks to plant the vegetables. I’ve already put some peas in the ground. I have more peas to plant if they don’t take off.

I was tired of the straggly stems and seed heads of last year’s black-eyed Susans, asters and goldenrod. I finally cut it off but didn’t remove it. They will cover the wildflower meadow and provide some protection for the new flower beds of annuals and perennials. As I walked around, I saw clumps of peplum and lupine, as well as more asters and irises. I think perennials are The Lazy Gardener’s best friend, they keep coming back!

I should add that I was walking around the meadow with a hedge trimmer to shorten dead stems, and it was wet, even muddy. Do you know the potential stress? Yes. This could be a problem if I was trying to grow a uniform path of grass. Not my goal. The wildflower patch – though it is large, I should not call it a field – has little rivers all around with clumps of perennials and grasses as separate as many islands. By cutting off the stems, I scattered the remaining seeds and then stamped them on the muddy surface with my treadmill. I will not be returning to the patch again this season except to remove invasive species such as purple apophysis.

The gall of the goldenrod gall formed along the stem of the goldenrod. Wasp larvae may join the gallfly larvae inside the gall and attack the mate, or birds may dig up the gall and eat the larvae feeding inside.

While cutting swathes of goldenrod stems, I smiled at the numerous balls that swelled about three feet up the stems of many of the plants. Balls form around a golden egg. The fly lays the egg, and the plant continues to grow around the egg and the growing larvae. The plant still flowers and the stem dies, but the gall remains as part of the woody remains. Botany continues to fascinate.

For your calendar, Master Gardeners of Western Massachusetts has two more seminars where you can join other garden enthusiasts and get answers to all kinds of gardening questions: the Berkshire County Symposium on April 6 at Lenox Memorial High School in Lenox, and the Franklin County Symposium on April 13 at Frontier High School In South Deerfield. Diamonds. Learn more here.

Where will you be on Monday, April 8, 2024? A modest phenomenon will occur Monday afternoon when the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun for a few moments of sudden darkness along the path of totality, about 100 miles west and north of Berkshire County! Away from the kidney, you will notice that the shadows and sunlight take on an unusual crescent shape. Presumably, darkness lasts long enough to prompt birds, insects, and amphibians to begin their evening rituals. Look around you and take it all in. There won’t be another coast-to-coast U.S. eclipse until 2045. Learn more from NASA.


I call myself the lazy Berkshire gardener because I don’t want to work hard on my gardens. I want to enjoy them. I find it easier to monitor my landscape and let the compost happen, or the water pool, or the tulips to plant myself. I look for ways to do the bare minimum for the greatest impact. For example, mulching is better than spraying and much better than weeding throughout the season. I look for beautiful, low-maintenance plants that will thrive in or at least tolerate my garden conditions. Plus, I’m willing to live with the consequences if I miss something.

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